Слике страница

the . Natchez country, where he became prominent among its citizens.

His oldest daughter, Catherine, married Stephen Minor, the distinguished General Don Estevan Minor, of the Spanish domination. Stephen Minor was the father of William J. Minor, and, therefore, grandfather of our member, Miss Minor, who also bears the family name of Catherine.

The reminder may not be unnecessary that in 1763 Natchez, sharing the fate of France's northern possessions in North America, had passed into the power of England, while Louisiana, as we know, was transferred by secret treaty to Spain. Hence, while New Orleans, for forty years under Spanish régime, progressed in the way of Latin development, the little village of Natchez grew and formed itself on the English model and remained sturdily and conservatively English, even when it passed again temporarily under Spanish rule, and remained the same when the Mississippi became a part of the United States. We may say it is still noticeably so to-day. A fine flow of immigration from England had marked the brief period of English domination, and another flow of as fine a type of settlers, Tory sympathizers, came in from New England* and the State adjoining after the Revolutionary war, all attracted by the beauty of the country, its fine climate and fertile soil and the secure expectation that Natchez would, in time, become the commercial and maritime rival of New Orleans, or, pending that, that Great Britain would eventually make New Orleans and the Mississippi her own as securely as she had Quebec and the St. Lawrence.

And, therefore, at the end of the eighteenth century we may picture Natchez the pretty little “White Apple Village of a noble tribe of Indians, expanding in all the beauty and refined culture of an English rural town, with noble brick edifices; manors standing in great parks of stalwart trees; the vestiges of the primeval forest; served by lordly retinues of slaves; altogether an aristocratic, if not lordly community, living as such communities lived in similar towns in England, maintaining a strict social etiquette, entertaining with handsome ceremonious dignity; rolling along smooth, well-kept roads in pompous carriages imported from the mother country, drawn by blooded stock

*Bernard Lintot, as we saw, came from Connecticut.

from famous stables driven by liveried coachmen, attended by liveried grooms and outriders.

The greatest, as well as the most important personage of the community, as he should have been, was the Spanish commander, Brigadier General Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos. He was a Spaniard of Spaniards in blood, religion and in loyalty to his King and in obeisance to the court ritual imposed by his official position. But he had been reared and educated in England; had, moreover, married an American lady, and this, with his geniality of temper and love of conviviality, more nearly approached him to the people he governed than the power in whose name he governed. Speaking English fluently and elegantly, he was well qualified to be the social as well as the political center of Natchez. He lived in a stately mansion, situated two miles from the town and the same distance from Fort Adams, its military station, The house was palatial, according to the Spanish standard at that time, of official residences; the furniture, cornices and mantels were imported from Spain; and Gayoso, with happy sentiment, named it “Concord” in token of the harmonious relations existing between him and his neighbors.

When he was transferred to New Orleans, to succeed Carondelet as Governor of Louisiana, he sold Concord to his successor and friend, Don Estevan Minor, who lived there until his death, maintaining the same splendid hospitality as Gayoso. His son, William J. Minor, inherited it, but migrated from it to his great plantation of Southdown in Louisiana. All of this, and more like it, must have been described to Mr. Hale.

But for all its blossoming beauty and harmonious atmosphere, Natchez, about 1800, was not all nor solely a social paradise, as Governor Gayoso knew well. If it was not, in truth, the center of political agitation, it was a wayside station to it, for New Orleans was then, and for many years, the center and seething pot of revolutionary schemes.

Gayoso, who seemed to be given to the pleasures of Natchez society and to his entertainments at Concord, was, in fact, held by his position, to the exercise of the same painful vigilance and unrelenting suspiciousness, that kept Carondelet on a tense strain in New Orleans. Never in the history of a country were there more varied forms of uneasiness to disturb the minds of its rulers. French, Spanish and American agitators were all at work in

the West and South, conspiring against and undermining the constituted authorities, preparing the way all unconsciously for the one solution of the political problem that overwhelmed them all—the cession of Louisiana to the United States.

In the meantime, after the exercise of infinite patience on the part of the United States against the infinite wiles of procrastination exercised by the Spaniards, the boundary lines between the two powers had been fixed and the United States troops were advancing to take possession of the province, when Spain would withdraw its garrisons according to the treaty of 1795. General Wilkinson, commander-in-chief of the United States forces of the West, who was to take possession of the territory, was stationed at Fort Adams, a few miles from Natchez, and from thence shared the responsibilities of the hour with Gayoso, with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship; each man, as it appears to-day, seeking, for reasons of his own, the confidence of the other; and it may be questioned if Wilkinson would ever have been the historical enigma he is to-day had it not been for his associations with, and fondness for, the society of the accomplished Gayoso and his pleasure in the banquets at Concord and afterwards in New Orleans, where we remember Gayoso died in consequence of convivial excesses with his stouter trencher companion.

And now at last Nolan comes into the narrative; arriving in Natchez from New Orleans in 1799 and bringing the following letter of introducion from Wilkinson to his good friend Gayoso:

“This will be delivered to you by Nolan, a child of my own raising, true to his profession and firm in his attachment to Spain. I consider him a powerful instrument in our hands should occasion offer. I will answer for his conduct. I am deeply interested in all that concerns him, and I confidently recommend him to your protection.”

To make this more important and confidential, it was written in cipher, which circumstance with the incriminating sentence in it, has been used against the imprudent writer and brought in question its authenticity. At that day the credentials of a stranger were, generally speaking, not letters of introduction, but the looks, manners and deportment of a gentleman; and these were accepted, so to speak, on sight if in addition the stranger bore the reputation of being able to defend himself with gallantry against aspersions of his honor. In these respects Nolan had nothing to fear. He was young, good looking, with the bearing

and language of a gentleman of proved courage and famed as an athlete of extraordinary strength, being able, it is said, to lift a bag containing two thousand pieces of silver with one hand from his saddle and carry it into the house. He comported himself with the assurance of a man in his rightful place in the best society. In a word, to describe him succinctly and comprehensively, he was a Kentuckian of Irish parentage, reared by that grand seigneur of civil and military life, General James Wilkinson, whose heartwhole affection for his protégé is expressed in the following exuberant letter, taken from the Minor archives. It is dated Evansville, July 12, 1796:

Child of My Affection and Friend of My Bosom:

“Your letter, written at Frankfort, did not reach my hand until the 7th of February, and I embrace the earliest opportunity to thank you for it, and to express to you the joy I feel at the prospect of soon embracing you and comparing the news of the scenes and changes of our respective lives since we parted. Mine has been, in general, made up of mortifications and disappointments; my wrongs and injuries have been great, yet my mind has not lost its spring or its perseverance, and I have strong expectations that the next Congress will bring me justice. I believe all things work together for the best. An interview with you at this time is important to me in various relations and independent of personal gratification. Give it to me then at this place or Fort Washington, where you may find me the beginning of the next month, as soon as possible. It is unnecessary for me to enlarge at this time, and I dare not open the folio of my journal unless I had a week's leisure before me. Wayne's arrival will keep me here a couple of weeks. Entre nous, I am independent of him, having a furlough in my pocket from the Minister of War, to take effect as soon as he arrives. My destination after a few weeks will be Phil. Perhaps you may go with me there. I have bold projects in view, my enterprise is unabated and my mind soars above adversity. The bearer, an honest, blooded lad of your country, I recommend to your regard. He will show you the way to me........ hasten to me, and, believe me in soul unalterably, my dear Philip, your friend,


General Wilkinson, as it is hardly necessary to explain in this Society, after a brilliant military record in the army of the United States, had resigned from the service to embark in a commercial venture that promised a good financial return; this was the bringing of tobacco and other Western produce from Ken. tucky to New Orleans, a tariff-locked market to such merchandise. He came down to the city in 1797 with a small cargo and made a good sale of it. A year later he strengthened his commercial interests by a partnership with the wealthy and commercially powerful Daniel Clark, who had been his agent. But in another year he made a change in this and Nolan, whom he had brought from Kentucky, was established in the lucrative position filled by Clark; and it is the belief of those, who at that time knew Clark, that it is to this act Wilkinson was indebted for the enmity Clark displayed so effectively in the Wilkinson trial.

Later, Wilkinson, disappointed in the results of his commercial venture, abandoned it and reëntered the United States army; and Nolan, losing the agency, cast about for a new line of business. Like his patron, he sought and found it under the favor and protection of the Spanish authorities; and thus obtained the contract to furnish horses for the Louisiana regiment then being formed in New Orleans. He procured the horses in a wild state, in Texas, and, after breaking them, sold them to the various military posts, not only Spanish, but also American. Historians say that the trade was not legitimate, but was winked at by the Spanish officials which necessitated that the contractor should keep on good terms with the commandants of the Spanish posts. Nolan seems at first to have managed this to perfection. He started with a passport from Miro, and from his successor, Carondelet, to whom he had presented a highly valuable map of Texas; the first map of Texas on record. In the Minor archives, there is a passport from Gayoso in addition given in Natchez, permitting Nolan to pass through Texas to the Mexican line and even beyond in the prosecution of his search for horses. He provided himself also with letters from Catholic priests of New Orleans to the priests of Texas.

The business, at best, was a risky one; full of dangers, excitements and disappointments. Nolan himself gives a graphic description of it and his life, for two or three years, in the following letter written to Wilkinson, dated Frankfort, June 10th, 1796. It begins in Wilkinson's own style:

"The Friend and Protector of my youth, I can never forget; but ungenerously suspected for a spy by the Mexicans and even by your old friend Gayoso, I cautiously denied myself the pleas


« ПретходнаНастави »